How Does 811 Work?

Understanding the limitations and significance of hiring a private utility locating company

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It is critical to call 811 before you dig for any residential or commercial excavation project. This process usually starts a few days before you plan to start a new project. The 811 phone number is a toll free nationwide number and should always be called before starting any type of digging project. Be sure to look at your own state laws because most require two to three business days before excavating. It is very important to have all the details of your project such as the time and location of your project as well as the type of work you plan to do along with the equipment you plan to use. The more details you have the better. After you make the 811 call, they will send a technician to locate the publicly owned utilities and mark the approximate locations with paint or flags.

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According to Common Ground Alliance only 35% of all utilities are public so 65% of all utilities aren’t marked.

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One of the biggest challenges on excavation projects is understanding utility responsibility and how 811 works. When we think about utilities we should look at this in two different ways. We have publicly owned and privately owned utilities. The easiest way to explain this is anything up to the meter is the public side and 811’s responsibility. So then everything after the meter is your responsibility which is the private side, thus ‘private utilities’. Thus it is essential for every excavation project to contact a qualified ‘private utility locator’ like GPRS to mark the location and depth of all the private utilities.

"everything after the meter is your responsibility which is the private side, thus ‘private utilities’"

65% of all Utilities are Private not Public

Utility Strike Every 62 Seconds in the US

2327 Utility Strike Deaths & Injuries in the Last 20 Years

16% Increase of Damages in the US from 2017 to 2018

In addition to 811 only locating a portion of the of the utilities locations there are also limitations of the 811 process. 811 Has very limited deliverables so if you need field sketches you will need a private utility locator. The 811 process also does not require the use of geophysical equipment so they often rely on existing records and visual observation which is Level D data. In addition it is commonly known that the 811 technicians focus on closing tickets quickly to meet their daily quota so sometimes the quality is lacking.

The first step to a smarter job site is to call 811 and then hire GPRS. You always want to protect yourself and those around you. There is always a risk in striking an underground utility, even if you think you know or can identify what might be buried in the area of excavation but you can’t ever assume the depth of a utility and hitting a utility can cost you fines, repairs and even your life.